No sheep but plenty of mud

ON a bright and breezy January morning, 33 members and guests of Morpeth Footpaths Society met in the village of Hepscott at the start of a six-mile circular walk.

The name Hepscott is Anglo Saxon in origin and a derivation of Shepherd’s Cote. Although we didn’t see any sheep we passed several farms on our circular walk, which took in the former mining areas of Choppington, Bedlington and Netherton.

On leaving the village we spotted a low flying heron in search of a late breakfast. We made our way towards Choppington, following Hepscott Burn where the path was extremely muddy.

After crossing the mineral railway line we walked through Choppington Woods, which is now a local nature reserve, but was the site of two former coal mines, High Pit and Low Pit. It was hard to believe that for many years this peaceful spot was a thriving industrial workplace. Some of the members had a look at the pond, which is now used by school groups for pond dipping.

After a brief stop for a coffee break we walked along the busy main road, past the Swan Inn with its tempting smells of Sunday roasts, before returning to the footpath which skirted the edge of a housing estate in Bedlington, and then on to Netherton.

As we approached the site of the former colliery, one of the group recalled how her grandparents lived in a house next to the colliery. She pointed out where the Co-op, miners’ cottages and bath house were situated. All that remains now is Howard House (the original building dates back to the early 1800s) which is now a children’s residential care home and school, but used to be the home and office of the Colliery Manager.

The home now uses a miner’s lamp as its logo to signify the history of coal mining in the area and to declare that it is ‘lighting the way for young people’, just as it lit the way for the miners.

We continued our way back to the start point, walking on a very straight track which we assumed was a coal wagon way, crossing over the burn once again, and then along the muddy tracks leading to Fieldhouse Farm and the village of Hepscott.

The walk took exactly three hours and was an excellent way to get our circulation going again after the indulgences of the Christmas festive period.